Thursday, August 14, 2008

Capturing high-speed action

Today I was thinking of the upcoming 4-day home stand of the Indianapolis Indians (8/15-8/18). It made me think about what it is I love about watching baseball (or any other sport). To enjoy a sport is much like enjoying anything else. In order to savor the moments of excitement, you have to know something about what you are watching. You can apply these basic ideas to sports, food, fine art, cars...whatever. Since I am the most comfortable with baseball, I'll use that sport as an example. What does this have to do with the title? Bear with me.

Let's say you are at a baseball game, and a batter just made it to first and stayed there. You know the next move is to steal second base, or stretch it to third. You now know where the potential action will be. Ok, you don't have a multi-thousand dollar camera setup, but you have a small PNS (thats "point-n-shoot" folks), so how do you do this?

It takes patience and a steady finger. Point and zoom your camera on the point where the action will take place. Remember to leave enough space in your frame to account for the action that could take place. Now, press the shutter button half-way down. On most cameras, this will tell the camera that you want to focus and meter the exposure (light or dark) for the photo you are about to take. Make sure the focus indicators have focused on something relevant (such as the baseman or the base) and not the outfield, the sky, or something else. If you need to re-focus, take your finger off the shutter button and press half-way again. Repeat until you think you got focus on the right thing. Now, just hold that finger there until the action happens! Remember what I said about the steady finger?

Ok, the runner stole the base, and you pressed the shutter button. You got the framing right, and got the right timing so it looks cool, but the runner is blurry.

Your shutter speed was too slow. Some PNS cameras let you set shutter speed priority (Tv or S on the dial). You many have to hunt through menus. Alternatively, some cameras also have "sports" scene modes. You know, that icon that looks like a person running?

Set your camera on "sports" scene or shutter priority with a shutter speed of at least 1/500 of a second (the larger the number on the bottom, the faster the shutter). Try it all again!

Remember, no matter what camera you have, night games with field lights are hard to shoot. Day games will always look the best.

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